What Makes a Great U.S. History Poster?

Since the early 20th century, the U.S. has been using posters as a means to get its message out to the public. These U.S. history posters feature bold illustrations and persuasive messages that are catchy and tend to stand out in a consumer’s mind. What makes a great U.S. history poster is its ability to be remembered. The following posters are examples of widely disseminated posters that are easily recognizable.

*Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It” Poster – This poster achieved its original goal and increased the female workforce by 10%, which made it effective. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, many men began enlisting in the military, which left a void in the workforce. In response, the government created propaganda posters to entice women to join the workforce. The poster features the fictional character Rosie the Riveter in a blue jumpsuit with her sleeve rolled up to reveal her flexed bicep. The slogan, “We Can Do It” is written at the top.

*Silence Equals Death Poster – During the early 80s, when the CDC revealed that 4,177 cases of AIDS had been reported in the U.S., the then-president Ronald Reagan remained silent about the issue. His silence was believed to be in support of Pat Buchanan, who in 1983 stated that AIDS was the price to pay for being homosexual. In 1987, six gay activists formed the Silence = Death campaign. The original posters featured the words Silence = Death under a pink triangle, which was meant to reference the Holocaust. By comparing the two situations, the activists hoped to encourage people to get involved and say something.

*”I Want You for U.S. Army” Poster – The “I Want You” poster is widely known, and arguably the most popular and iconic image in American propaganda. It features a cartoon of Uncle Sam, which calls American men to arms. It was first used during World War I, where it ran on the first page of Leslie’s Weekly. A slightly altered version of this poster also ran during World War II.

U.S. history posters are used to send a message to consumers. They were widely used by the government in order to spur American’s into action. As the saying goes “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” These types of history posters are proof of that phenomenon, and they have proven to be effective at reaching their audience and inciting action time and time again.


“Great Political Posters that Changed U.S. History.” Think Smart Designs (Website). Retrieved from http://thinksmartdesigns.blogspot.com/2010/06/great-political-posters-that-changed-us.html . Accessed on October 3, 2013.

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